Dec. 3, 2013
Big Ten/ACC Challenge
#4/5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-0 / 0-0 ACC) vs. #10/11 Penn State Lady Lions (5-1 / 0-0 Big Ten)
DATE: Dec. 4, 2013
TIME: 7:30 p.m. ET
AT: University Park, Pa. - Bryce Jordan Center (15,621)
SERIES: PSU leads 5-0
1ST MTG: PSU 86-70 (11/22/91)
LAST MTG: PSU 75-49 (11/16/06)
TV: Big Ten Network (live) (Eric Collins, p-b-p / Stephanie White, color)
RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1)/WatchND (live) (Bob Nagle, p-b-p)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
No. 4/5 Fighting Irish Visit No. 10/11 Penn State Wednesday For Big Ten/ACC Challenge
From the reunion of a former player and coach, to simple conference pride, there's likely to be a spot on the emotional spectrum for just about everyone as No. 4/5 Notre Dame visits No. 10/11 Penn State at 7:30 p.m. (ET) Wednesday for one of the marquee games in the 2013 Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The contest will be televised live from PSU's Bryce Jordan Center on the Big Ten Network.
The Fighting Irish (6-0) will take on their second Pennsylvania school in just over 72 hours (and third of the season) after a wire-to-wire 100-61 win over Duquesne Sunday afternoon in Toronto.
Senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride scored a season-high 22 points and Canadian Olympic Team member Natalie Achonwa added her first double-double of the year (11 points, 10 rebounds) as Notre Dame shot 60.9 percent from the floor in rolling past the Dukes.
The Notre Dame-Penn State Series
Notre Dame and Penn State will be meeting for the sixth time on Wednesday night, with the Lady Lions having won all five prior games in the series, including both previous matchups on the PSU campus (the 1993 game at old Rec Hall and the most recent game between the schools in 2006 at the Bryce Jordan Center).
The Last Time Notre Dame and Penn State Met
A poor shooting night on Notre Dame's part and a hot shooting evening for Penn State didn't make for a good combination, as the Fighting Irish took their first loss of the 2006-07 season, 75-49 to Penn State on Nov. 16, 2006, at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pa.
Notre Dame shot a season-low 26.8 percent (15-of-56) from the field, while the Lady Lions connected at a .488 clip (20-of-41) from the floor and an .879 rate (29-of-33) at the foul line to remain unbeaten on the young season.
Notre Dame guards Tulyah Gaines and Charel Allen scored a team-high 12 points apiece, while rookie guard Melissa Lechlitner came off the bench to register a season-best 11 points, including 3-of-4 three-pointers.
Tyra Grant led Penn State with 19 points, highlighted by a 10-of-10 effort from the free throw stripe.
Notre Dame never led in the contest, as PSU made its first five shots from the floor and its initial four free throws while bolting out to a 15-2 lead with five minutes gone. From there, the Fighting Irish played the Lady Lions virtually even for the remainder of the half, getting within 26-16 on Allen's jumper with 6:22 left before halftime. However, Penn State answered with six consecutive points and wound up with a 37-22 lead at the intermission.
In the second half, Notre Dame sliced the margin to 13 points on two occasions, the second on Gaines' old-fashioned three-point play at the first media timeout of the period (15:56). But, Grant came back with five straight points for the hosts, and after a three-minute dry spell on both ends, the Lady Lions finished off an 11-3 run that pushed their lead over 20 points midway through the second half.
PSU kept the Fighting Irish at bay the remainder of the contest behind potent free throw shooting, with 14 of the final 20 points for the home side coming from the line.
Other Notre Dame-Penn State Series Tidbits
Teacher vs. Student
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw has historically been reluctant to have her teams play schools coached by her former players and/or assistants. In fact, Wednesday's game at Penn State (and Lady Lion head coach Coquese Washington, a 1992 and 1997 Notre Dame graduate and eight-year member of McGraw's staff from 1999-2007) will mark just the third time in McGraw's 27-year tenure under the Golden Dome that she will be coaching opposite one of her former assistants (and the first time against a former player-turned-head coach).
Twice in the early years of her Notre Dame career, McGraw coached against former Fighting Irish assistant Bill Fennelly, who was on McGraw's first staff at Notre Dame in 1987-88 before taking the reins of his own program at Toledo and twice defeating his former boss while piloting the Rockets (85-62 on March 23, 1989, at the now-defunct National Women's Invitation Tournament in Amarillo, Texas; 70-69 on Jan. 6, 1990, in Toledo, Ohio).
Today, Fennelly is better known for his success as the head coach at Iowa State, and is one of four former McGraw assistant coaches now running their own Division I programs, along with Washington, Kevin McGuff (Ohio State) and Jonathan Tsipis (George Washington). They highlight a contingent of 12 former McGraw players/assistants currently working with Division I women's basketball programs, with a full rundown on page 52 of this year's Notre Dame media guide.
Notre Dame vs. The Big Ten Conference
Notre Dame is 47-49 (.490) all-time against the Big Ten Conference, with a 17-26 (.395) record on the road. The Fighting Irish also are 40-34 (.541) against the Big Ten in the Muffet McGraw era (1987-88 to present).
Of note, Notre Dame has won 19 of its last 25 games vs. Big Ten schools, including a current string of eight in a row since Minnesota ended the 2008-09 Fighting Irish season with a 79-71 win in the first round of the NCAA Championship at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame also has won its last four road games against Big Ten opponents following a 63-59 overtime loss at Michigan on Dec. 10, 2008. The current Fighting Irish road winning streak against the Big Ten continued last year with a 74-57 win at Iowa in the second round of the NCAA Championship (March 26, 2013).
Penn State is the second of three Big Ten opponents on Notre Dame's regular-season schedule, with the Fighting Irish already earning an 81-62 win over No. 19/18 Michigan State on Nov. 11 at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame will face its third and final Big Ten opponent this season on Dec. 14 when it pays a visit to Michigan.
Although Wednesday will mark Notre Dame's first appearance in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the Fighting Irish do have some past experience against the Big Ten in a challenge format. In 2003-04 and 2004-05, Notre Dame participated in the BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge, playing Purdue both seasons and splitting those two matchups (losing 76-63 on Jan. 4, 2004, in West Lafayette, Ind.; winning 86-69 on Jan. 16, 2005, at Purcell Pavilion).
Notre Dame comes into this week's action leading the nation in rebounding margin (+20.8 rebounds per game). The Fighting Irish have posted double-digit rebounding margins in five games this season, including four games when Notre Dame had a +20 rebounding margin or better.
The Fighting Irish also have collected at least 50 rebounds in three games, including their first two outings, nabbing 54 rebounds against UNC Wilmington on Nov. 9, followed by 52 caroms against No. 19/18 Michigan State two nights later.
This marked the first time the Fighting Irish have had consecutive 50-rebound games since Dec. 12 & 22, 2001, when they did so in home wins over Western Michigan (56 rebounds) and Marquette (54 rebounds).
Notre Dame nearly made it three for three on the boards to open the season, finishing with 49 caroms on Nov. 16 against Valparaiso. The last time the Fighting Irish had three consecutive 50-rebound contests was Jan. 15-29, 1992, in wins over Louisville (56) and at Butler (50), followed by a home loss to Detroit (54).
A Helping Hand
The Fighting Irish rank second in the nation in assists this week, currently averaging 23.0 assists per game. Notre Dame has dished out at least 21 helpers in each of its six games thus far, with the Fighting Irish piling up assists on 64.5 percent of their made field goals this year (138 of 214).
Firing Out Of The Blocks
Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd stormed out of the gates this season, piling up 63 points in Notre Dame's first three games, wins over UNC Wilmington (19 points), No. 19/18 Michigan State (22 points) and Valparaiso (22 points).
Loyd's point production was the highest for a Fighting Irish player in the opening three contests of a season since 1998-99, when Danielle Green had 66 combined points in wins against No. 6 UCLA at home (23 points), at Butler (23) and No. 6/4 Duke at home (20).
Call Her Mabrey
Another Notre Dame sophomore guard who has sparkled early this year is Michaela Mabrey. The Belmar, N.J., resident has emerged as a key reserve for the Fighting Irish, averaging 10.5 points and 3.3 assists per game with a 2.86 assist/turnover ratio (the latter ranking second in the ACC) through the first six contests of the season, after logging 3.0 ppg. and 1.3 apg. with a 1.06 A/TO mark last year.
What's more, Mabrey already has scored in double figures four times this year (including a career-high 19 points in the season opener against UNC Wilmington) after doing so three times in 30 games last season.
Freshman Lindsay Allen got the call from head coach Muffet McGraw to start at point guard in Notre Dame's season opener against UNC Wilmington on Nov. 9 at Purcell Pavilion. Allen finished with 11 points in her debut game, including the team's first five points of the season.
It was the first time a Fighting Irish rookie point guard started the season opener since Nov. 26, 1994, when Mollie Peirick cracked the lineup and played 38 minutes (two points, five rebounds, three assists) in a 65-60 overtime loss at No. 25 Seton Hall.
Allen has not disappointed in her debut campaign, averaging 10.8 points and 4.3 assists per game (the latter ranking sixth in the ACC). She also leads the ACC with a .703 field goal percentage, ranks eighth with a 2.00 assist/turnover ratio, and is tied for 10th in the conference with 2.3 steals per game.
Notre Dame has won a school-record 23 consecutive regular season road games and 30 of its last 35 overall, including its Nov. 23 road opener at Penn. The Fighting Irish last tasted defeat on the road in the regular season on Nov. 20, 2011, a 94-81 setback at No. 1 Baylor in the Preseason WNIT championship game.
The highlight of this current run came on Jan. 5, 2013, when Notre Dame edged No. 1 Connecticut, 73-72, in Storrs, Conn., earning its fourth all-time win over a top-ranked opponent and first-ever victory on the road.
Prior to the past two-plus years, the school record for consecutive regular season road wins was held by Notre Dame's 2000-01 national championship team that won its first 10 road outings before a 54-53 loss at No. 11/14 Rutgers on Feb. 17, 2001.
The Fighting Irish also have won a school-record 16 consecutive conference regular season road games, with their last loss coming as part of the BIG EAST Conference on Feb. 28, 2011 (a last-second 70-69 loss at No. 12/11 DePaul).
The previous school record for consecutive regular season conference road wins was seven, set numerous times, most recently crossing between the 2001-02 and 2002-03 campaigns.
The previous Notre Dame record for consecutive regular season road victories in any conference was 15, which the Fighting Irish set from Feb. 25, 1989-Feb. 14, 1991 during their time in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (Horizon League).
Notre Dame's 1,000-Point Scorers
Senior tri-captains Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa will spend their final season at Notre Dame steadily climbing the program's all-time scoring list, after both entered the Fighting Irish 1,000-Point Club last year.
McBride currently ranks 19th in program history with 1,300 career points, having moved up to her current perch on Sunday with a season-high 22 points against Duquesne.
Meanwhile, Achonwa stands 28th in Notre Dame history with 1,087 points, getting a slow start on her ascension up the ranks this year after missing the first three games due to preseason knee surgery. However, she resumed her climb and stepped up a rung on the ladder on Nov. 26 with her team-high 17 points against No. 25 DePaul.
Coming Up Aces
Senior forward/tri-captains Natalie Achonwa (nicknamed "Ace") also is making her way up Notre Dame's career charts in both rebounds and double-doubles. She has already cracked the top 10 in the latter category, tying Heidi Bunek (1985-89) for 10th all-time with 21 double-doubles, while she is six rebounds shy of catching Shari Matvey (742 rebounds from 1979-83) for 10th place on the Fighting Irish all-time list.
Achonwa continues to remain among the top 10 in school history with a .541 career field goal percentage, presently ranking ninth in program annals.
Irish Closing In On 800 Wins
Notre Dame is on the doorstep of becoming the 27th program in NCAA Division I women's basketball history (and fourth Atlantic Coast Conference school) to record 800 victories, currently standing four wins short of the milestone. The Fighting Irish have posted a 796-316 (.716) record in their 37 seasons of varsity competition, dating back to the 1977-78 campaign.
The last school to reach the 800-win mark was LSU (which did so on Nov. 25, 2012, at Florida International), with Notre Dame's fellow ACC members, Duke and North Carolina State, also nearing 800 all-time victories (the Blue Devils currently have 792 wins, while the Wolfpack have recorded 784 wins). Currently, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland are the three ACC members in the 800-victory club.
Next Game: UCLA
Notre Dame returns home this weekend, playing host to UCLA at noon (ET) Saturday at Purcell Pavilion. The game will be streamed live and free of charge on the official Fighting Irish athletics multimedia platform, WatchND.
UCLA (3-4) will be playing its fourth ranked opponent of the season, having defeated No. 10 Oklahoma, 82-76 back on Nov. 24 in Los Angeles. The Bruins are coming off a 1-2 trip to the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Fla., last weekend, and will be making their first visit to Notre Dame since Nov. 18, 2010, when they posted an 86-83 double-overtime win over the Fighting Irish.
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director